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How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally in 2 Ways

How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally in 2 Ways

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to dye your own Easter eggs naturally in 2 ways, with easily accessible tools and materials which you may already have at home! This is a great introduction to the wonders of natural dyeing and a fun activity to do with your little ones this Easter.

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What you will need:

-            Light coloured eggs (white is best but light brown or beige eggs would work too)
-            Metal skewer/large needle (or similar)*
-            Straw*
-            Bowl (or food storage container)*
-            Syringe with a small tip*
-            Large bowl*
-            Chopping board
-            Knife
-            Saucepan
-            Spoon
-            Fine-mesh sieve or coffee filter
-            Mason Jars
-            White vinegar
-            Cotton fabric squares (or baking parchment, large enough to fully wrap your eggs with)
-            A few rubberbands
-            Steamer (or a pot with a steaming rack or you can improvise with a heatproof colander)
-            Wiping cloth (optional)
-            Light vegetable oil (optional)
-            Range of dye materials – I used red cabbage, turmeric, red wine, coffee, red and brown onion skins, cochineal, marigolds, roses, native violets

*I started this project as a sustainable decorating idea and the metal skewer, straw and syringe are used in the steps below where I show you how to prep the eggs (basically to obtain empty but whole, intact eggshells) so that they can be stored and reused for future Easters. You can skip these steps if you’re intending to use boiled eggs, but these obviously won’t keep for next year.

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Some notes on safety – The techniques I introduce in this tutorial can be used on a wide variety of natural dyes. I used whatever dye stuff I had on hand and not all are edible, but if you’re intending to use your kitchenware and utensils, you will need to choose your dyes very carefully. Stick to entirely edible dyes, such as tea, coffee, spices, edible flowers, etc. For your safety, if you’re not sure or if it’s something you don’t usually eat, such as seeds and peels, even if they are from an edible product, it is best not to use your cooking utensils.

Here’s a short list of edible dyes according to the colours that can be achieved from them to help you make your choices:
Pinks and reds – beetroot, hibiscus (tea), red wine (maroon - burgundy tones), cherries, cochineal
Blues and purples – red cabbage, blueberries, butterfly pea flowers
Yellows and oranges – turmeric, marigolds, saffron, annatto
Greens – spinach, turmeric + red cabbage
Browns and tans – black tea, coffee

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Now, let’s start prepping the eggs

1.       Start by making a hole on each end of each egg. I like to sit the eggs on an egg tray when doing this so that they’re stable and don’t move about. Working gently, make a small nick in the top of the egg to create a groove with the skewer and then twist it like you’re “drilling” the egg. Repeat for the other end of the egg.

2.       Holding the egg firmly but gently in your hand, blow the insides of the egg out into a bowl with a straw. I find it the easiest if you make the holes on the ends of the egg one bigger than the other and blow through the smaller one with the straw. Repeat for all the eggs you’re planning to dye. You can store the egg innards in the fridge to use for cooking for up to 2 days - omelettes, frittatas, French toasts are all great ways to use them!

3.       Fill a large bowl with warm soapy water to wash the empty egg shells. I used a fine-tipped syringe to get to the insides – inject some water into the empty eggs and give them a good shake. If you don’t have access to a syringe, try pressing the eggs down (gently!) into the water and wait for it to fill up slightly. Just blow again with a straw to get the water out. Once you’re done cleaning all the egg shells, set them aside to dry.

Dyeing the eggs part 1 – with a dye bath

In this first method, we make a concentrated dye liquid and immerse the eggs in the liquid like a “bath”. This creates eggs with a more or less uniform colour throughout.

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4.       We start by making a dye concentrate. Gently cook your dye ingredients with just enough water to for 30 – 60 mins to extract as much colour as possible. Ideally, you’d want the dye bath to be darker than you want the eggs to be as the eggs will emerge lighter. More water can be added later in the dyeing process to create a variation of tones from 1 pot of dye. For the bulkier dye stuffs, such as red cabbage or beetroot, it helps to break them down into smaller pieces to increase the surface area from where pigments can be released. Berries can be first mashed with a fork. Dyes from powdered or ground materials such as turmeric powder, saffron and coffee, can be prepared by simply stirring in hot water.

5.       When you’re happy with the colour of the dye, let it cool and strain the dye into a mason jar. You may need to use a fine mesh sieve or coffee filter to strain the ground or powdered dyes. It’s not absolutely necessary but will help with achieving an even tone. If you prefer an uneven/mottled look, you can skip this.

6.       Add a splash of vinegar to your jar of dye. This will help the dye pigments adhere to the egg shells. Side note: In the video, I added vinegar to half of my red cabbage dye and baking soda to another half. The baking soda makes the dye a greenish teal, but I’ve realised the colour doesn’t come out very well on the eggs. You can still try it of course, but the vinegar version creates a richer, turquoise blue tone 😊

7.       Immerse the egg shells and leave to soak. Since empty eggs float, I use the syringe to fill the eggs up with the dye to help them stay submerged. I recommend keeping them in the dye for at least overnight (I like to soak mine for at least a day) but you can check on them every few hours and remove them once you’re happy with the colour.

Dyeing the eggs part 2 – bundle dyeing

In this second method, instead of extracting the pigments, we put the egg shells in direct contact with the dye ingredients which “prints” the eggs. This technique creates beautiful, organic patterns and can be used to create multicoloured eggs as opposed to the plain, single coloured eggs from the dye bath method.

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8.   Dip fabric squares into a vinegar-water mix and wring out the excess liquid. Lay it out flat onto your work top and scatter and sprinkle some of your chosen dye ingredients in the centre.

9.   Dip an egg briefly in the same vinegar-water mixture to wet the surface and place it on top of the scattered dye ingredients on the fabric square. Scatter more of your dye ingredients over the top of the egg, roll it around lightly, to cover it as much, or as little as you like. The wet surface should help your dye ingredients adhere to better.

10.   Gather the corners and edges of the fabric square to wrap around the egg and secure with a rubber band. You’ll need to be very careful, but still do this as tightly as possible so that you keep the dye ingredients in contact with the egg shells.

11.   If you’re using baking parchment instead of fabric, you’ll need to wet the surface of the egg more so that there is a bit more moisture (since the paper isn’t carrying extra moisture) to allow pigments to travel from the dye ingredients onto the egg shell. But not too much, as the paper may rip if it’s too wet!

12.   Once you’ve wrapped the eggs, put them into your steamer with water on a simmer. Steam the eggs for 30 – 60 mins and the heat and steam will help to transfer and fix the pigments from your dye ingredients onto the porous egg shells. After steaming, let the bundled eggs cool and leave to sit and cure overnight before unwrapping.

13.   Gently unwrap the eggs and remove the spent dye material from the egg to unveil the patterns and leave to dry. Remember that if the eggs are still damp when you unwrap, rubbing may smudge the prints.

Play around!

14.   With the 2 techniques, you can play around with layering colours with prints or “double dipping” in colours to create a whole rainbow spectrum of eggs. Beware, this could be addictive!

Finishing touches

15.   Once all the dyed eggs are dry, lightly brush them with a piece of fabric dipped in vegetable oil to give them a light shine. Feel free to skip this step if you prefer the eggs to be matte.

16.   Then it’s time to show off your naturally dyed Easter eggs! Line a basket with shredded brown paper to arrange the eggs in for table centrepiece, place in egg cups for the mantelpiece, or use some embroidery floss or ribbon to make loops for hanging from a natural branch – the possibilities are endless!

And here’s the full process in a little stop-motion video. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tutorial. If you do give it a go, I’d love to see your results, so give me a shout and tag me on your Instagram or Facebook posts!
I love sharing my processes with people (possibly my favourite part when doing a market!), and holding workshops is definitely up there amongst my goals. If you’ve enjoyed following these steps to dye eggs and would like to attend a real-life session with me to learn more about dyeing fabrics naturally or nuno-felting, you can sign up for my newsletter at the end of this page to receive an email when I finally get the logistics sorted.

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The dyeing techniques I used in this tutorial are simplified versions of actual dyeing processes I use for my work. Through a lot of practice and trial and error, I’ve tailored them to suit the materials and dye materials I use. You can see more of them over on my online shop.

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